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BC's seniors advocate says elderly still not receiving minimum hours of care

Last Updated Jan 31, 2018 at 1:34 pm PDT

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85 per cent of senior care facilities are still not meeting recommended guidelines

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – British Columbia’s seniors advocate has released her annual snapshot of residential care facilities in the province, highlighting modest improvements in hours of care provided to the elderly, but raising concerns about the drugs they receive every day.

Isobel Mackenzie says provincial guidelines require 3.36 hours of daily direct care services such as bathing or therapy for each senior but data shows just 15 per cent of all facilities met that standard last year.

Her report, covering almost 300 publicly subsidized residential care facilities, says the daily care figure has improved almost six per cent from one year earlier.

However, she says she can’t “take a lot of heart” from it when 85 per cent of facilities are still not meeting recommended guidelines.

The report shows a seven per cent drop in the number of seniors prescribed anti-psychotics without a diagnosis of psychosis, but Mackenzie says the use of the drugs is still far higher than in many other provinces.

She also raises concerns about the 48 per cent of residents prescribed antidepressants because just 24 per cent have been diagnosed with depression.

Union demands stronger provincial action for residential care facilities

Saying staff shortages are still at crisis levels, the union representing close to 20,000 workers at residential care facilities across BC is demanding stronger action from the provincial government.

“It’s no surprise that we see injury rates that are more than twice the injury rates that are experienced in acute care, so it’s absolutely a crisis,” Jennifer Whiteside with the Hospital Employees Union says. “Just frankly, not the level of care that you or I would want for ourselves or for our loved ones.”

She adds injury rates are twice as high in care homes as they are at hospital.

“It puts the staff who are there in a position where they have to rush through basic care routines,” Whiteside explains. “Particularly in situations where they are providing care to seniors who may have dementia. That does create a very dangerous situation.”

The numbers are slightly down from last year when Isobel Mackenzie reported 91 per cent are under-staffed.

But, Whiteside says bringing the rate down to 50 per cent could take at least six years.

“One of the most sort of troubling aspects that a significant percentage of seniors living in residential long-term care are lonely. They feel socially isolated. We are not providing a quality of life for them that we should be.”